Indigenous

Cree-Métis designer showcases collection returning from London Fashion week

Fresh off the heels of London Fashion week, Cree-Métis fashion designer Angela DeMontigny showcased her collection at Ryerson University for a special event planned by fashion event planning students and faculty.

'I don't ever want to do anything that’s deemed stereotypical,' says Angela DeMontigny

Designer Angela DeMontigny's signature piece from her Of The Stars A/W collection (Grant Linton/ CBC)

Fresh off the heels of London Fashion week, Cree-Métis fashion designer has returned to showcase her collection at Ryerson University.

One of Canada's pioneering Indigenous fashion designers, Angela DeMontigny has been selling her designs since 1995 across the globe. Her unique designs incorporate traditional materials like leathers, fur and intricate beadwork that is given a modern flare taking the form of jackets and dresses.

"I've always set out to be a contemporary designer, I don't ever want to do anything that's deemed stereotypical because I want to show a different side, change people's perceptions of what they think Indigenous people are about in North America," said DeMontigny.

The most recent collection she is showcasing is called Of The Stars, inspired by the Anishinaabe story Daughters of the Seven Stars, which refers to the Pleiades constellation.

Henry Navarro and Angela DeMontigny after the Of The Stars collection showcase at Ryerson Image Arts Building. (Rhiannon Johnson/ CBC )

"A lot of people know about Greek mythology and so many other cultures way, way back. But nobody knows about our stories and how we are connected to the stars and so many creation stories where we are of the stars, we are made up of the same matter of the stars," said DeMontigny.

"I wanted to really talk about that and that's how we have a lot of embroidered pieces that tell that story," she added.

She draws inspiration from her background rooted in traditional storytelling. 

One of the signature pieces of the collection is a navy blue leather jacket with dangling fringe and Of The Stars embroidered in Cree syllabics across the back.

Incorporation of Indigenous knowledge

The event was planned and organized by students in Ryerson's Fashion Event Planning course at the School of Fashion.

Students incorporated aspects of Indigenous knowledge in the planning process.

Angela DeMontigny's A/W capsule collection Of The Stars. (Rhiannon Johnson/ CBC)

"Because we planned to showcase work of an Indigenous designer we thought it was very fitting to integrate Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous approaches into design and event planning within the course."  said Henry Navarro, an instructor and associate professor at the Ryerson School of Fashion.

"We took as a guideline the 12 principles of the Cree Elders and we applied those principles to different aspects of the course," he added.

One of the principles Navarro says was integral was the aspect of holistic life, whereby everything is related, all actions have a reaction.

Indigenous luxury and cultural resurgence 

Navarro also brought in Ojibway PhD student Riley Kucheran, who is studying culture and communication at Ryerson and York University.

"I think the western fashion industry is so exploitative both environmentally and socially but what Indigenous fashion does is it centres land and community," said Kucherhan.

Angela DeMontigny, centre, with models for the Of The Stars collection showcase at Ryerson's Image Arts Building (Grant Linton/ CBC)

Kucherhan worked with Demontigny at her Hamilton boutique, where he was inspired to pursue research in Indigenous clothing and fashion design, a key element in his thesis. Specifically, looking at the historical role of clothing and colonization, how it was used as a weapon against Indigenous people and also how Indigenous people can be successful in the fashion industry. 

Demontigny has had a leading role in imagining Indigenous luxury, that contribute to economic and cultural resurgence, said Kucheran, by reframing the way that the rest of the world see Indigenous people and their fashion.

"Angela working as an Indigenous fashion designer, inherently supports uplifting our communities in what I like to think of as cultural resurgence."

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

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